A controversial project claiming to measure anti-Muslim attacks will not have its government grant renewed after police and civil servants raised concerns about its methods. The project, called Tell Mama, claimed that there had been a “sustained wave of attacks and intimidation” against British Muslims after the killing of Drummer Lee Rigby, with 193 “Islamophobic incidents” reported to it, rising to 212 by last weekend. The group’s founder, Fiyaz Mughal, said he saw “no end to this cycle of violence”, describing it as “unprecedented”. The claims were unquestioningly repeated in the media. Tell Mama and Mr Mughal did not mention, however, that 57 per cent of the 212 reports referred to activity that took place only online, mainly offensive postings on Twitter and Facebook, or that a further 16 per cent of the 212 reports had not been verified. Not all the online abuse even originated in Britain.
Contrary to the group’s claim of a “cycle of violence” and a “sustained wave of attacks”, only 17 of the 212 incidents, 8 per cent, involved the physical targeting of people and there were no attacks on anyone serious enough to require medical treatment.
The Sunday Telegraph has now learned that even before Woolwich, the communities minister, the Liberal Democrat MP Don Foster, called Mr Mughal to a meeting and said that Tell Mama’s grant would not be renewed. The organisation has received a total of £375,000 from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) since last year.
“Mr Mughal was giving data on attacks to DCLG which wasn’t stacking up when it was cross-referenced with other reports by Acpo [the Association of Chief Police Officers],” said one source closely involved in counter-extremism. “He was questioned by DCLG civil servants and lost his temper. He was subsequently called in by Don Foster and told that he would receive no more money.” A DCLG spokesman confirmed that Tell Mama’s funding would not be renewed and refused to deny that officials had raised concerns about its methods.
Other figures, collected by the police, show that hate crime in mainly Muslim areas has fallen in the past 10 years. The only large force that collects figures on specifically anti-Muslim crime, the Metropolitan Police, reported an 8.5 per cent fall in such crimes between 2009 and 2012. There was a spike in anti-Muslim incidents after the killing of Drummer Rigby. However, contrary to Tell Mama’s claims that it was “unprecedented”, the Met’s assistant commissioner, Cressida Dick, told MPs last week that it was “slightly less” than after previous terror attacks.